• CSX Engineer Story From My Childhood

  • For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.
For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.

Moderator: Jeff Smith

  by scje953
Does anybody happen to know a CSX engineer named Buddy? I'm not sure which yard he was out of, but my parents and I met him back in the mid-90's on the CN&L near Little Mountain, SC. Last I heard 5+ years ago, he was running intermodal trains somewhere in GA. After some debate, I've decided to include the story that goes along with this request.

As I mentioned, this happened back in the mid-90's. His train was waiting on a siding for another train to pass. At the time, the line was CTC, with manual switches and phone boxes at each end of the siding. It wasn't uncommon during long waits for the crew to uncouple the locomotives from their trains and run down to the town diner. Sometimes crew members would take short jogs into town.

Being a kid living near a siding, I had an interest in trains. That being said, there were quite a few trains through there back then and most of the time, we didn't give them a second thought; however, that day we decided to walk over and see the train.

It was a loaded coal train and we were taking a look at the locomotives when we noticed a guy jogging toward the train. We were quite a ways back from the tracks, but he apparently noticed our interest and came over to introduce himself. I don't remember the exact conversation - I was shy - but it apparently came up that I liked trains.

It wasn't long at all before he invited us aboard the lead locomotive. It was a wide cab something-or-another...pretty sure it was a GE, but I never learned the different locomotive types or models. Bright yellow nose, dark blue cab, and light blue/grey down the side. I had seen trains all my life, but I remember being amazed at the size of this thing; I had never been this close. The first step, seeming so small from my normal safe distance, was tall.

Once on board, we met the conductor. Regrettably, I can't remember his name. While the conductor and my parents talked, Mr. Buddy took me to the engineer's side of the locomotive and began showing me the controls. The reverser, the throttle, brakes, bell, whistle, etc...my parents tell the story of them and the conductor standing there watching two kids at the controls, not knowing which one was having more fun.

Then, the time came. He let me turn on the bell. Then the horn twice...that was cool...I didn't know what it meant at the time. Remember, I was a kid, probably 6 or 7 at the time. Then he told me to move a couple of levers. We were moving! Barely, but we were! He stopped us, made a few adjustments, then told me to move a couple of levers again. We slowly crept back to where we started.

It probably wasn't more than 10 feet, but here I am, a kid doing something I thought I would only ever dream of!

We didn't stick around for long...the whole thing probably lasted less than 15 minutes. We let them get back to work. They both signed a CSX field kit (the marker has long faded) and gave it to me to take home. I'm 27 years old now, and as crazy as it sounds, I still have that kit.

At that time, I had no idea what an impact those few minutes would have. From that point, I knew all the way through 11th grade that I wanted to work for the railroad...any railroad. From there, I had the grades to get into college. I earned my degree and have worked hard but, despite trying, unfortunately still haven't made my way into a railroad career. I still have a passing interest in trains...I wave at the crews if they happen to be in view. Even with the knowledge of the long hours, tough schedules, and the many other real life challenges to life on the railroad, it's still on my incredibly short list of careers that I'd love to have. The harsh reality is, that may never happen...but I intend to keep trying. Either way, I'll always have the memory of the day I got to move a coal train...and that's all thanks to Engineer Buddy.
  by Gadfly
I guess I was "lucky" if you could call it that. At the age of 10 or so, I used to hang out at the huge passenger station in Salisbury, NC. Like you, I was excited when a Southern engineer allowed me to climb aboard the cab and ride a few feet. I faintly remember those massive, Green FP7s with the word "SOUTHERN" on the sides. As a child, it became one of the things on my short list, too. I wasn't massively interested in trains, but any machine fascinated me. I was also very attracted to airplanes.

I grew up, kinda forgot about trains. Of course, it was just a mild, passing interest, and I put it aside as just another childhood fantasy. By the age of 27, my jobs just weren't working out and I was not getting anywhere. Once again I began to get interested in, not so much trains themselves, but the possibility of working in the industry. I liked the pension because it was better than "socialistic INsecurity", and the retirement age was lower.

From what I read, people seem to have a hard time getting hired, and it can take years. From the time of my first rekindled interest to actually being hired was about 2 years--much of which was devoted to "thinking about" it. Once I made up my mind, a letter of inquiry to Southern Railway System produced a standard "We appreciate your interest in SR-blah, blah, blah.........standard brush off letter. So much for that. About 2 months later a letter arrived announcing a hiring session in Charlotte, NC. Oh, yeah, I went. Lucky? I guess!! I was hired right off the bat pending physical. Took that. Passed. Went to work as a laborer in a track material yard. it was hot, greasy, filthy work. Grungy labor. But I didn't care. I was so proud and not too proud to get dirty. Besides I doubled my pay the day I walked onto the property--at the apprentice rate. Even as an Extra laborer that didn't get to work every day, I made more money than my old job.

I was kind of a hard worker, not bragging mind you, but it was the way I was taught, so when a lay-off came and part of the shops moved south, I got a call from my boss asking if I wanted to be an Extra Clerk, handling invoices in the office? I desperately wanted to keep my current connection to the company, so I jumped at the chance! They liked my work there, too, so I got a call from the Chief Clerk, Yard, saying I was to report to McDonough, Ga for 6 weeks training. I didn't hesitate. I drove down humming "I've been working on the railroad all the livelong day........... :-) And after that I was neck-deep in the railroad life-waybills, freight inspections, clearing trains, signals and "Take 'em high on North end, shove south into RY 9, Over"! :wink: I wouldn't traded it for the world now its done. But I sure did my share of cussin' while I was out there! I finished my career back at the Roadway Shops where I first started handling inventory for track machines. I retired from a daylight, 5-day week with weekends off. I fondly remember my days at Norfolk Southern, especially when it was SOUTHERN RAILWAY SYSTEM because it was a more exciting, colorful company, and I loved those big, Green n' Gold E8s chanting as I rode along in the engines deadheading.
  by scje953
Sounds like a great experience, being proud of your work. I've applied off and on for 4 or 5 years with NS...CSX hasn't had anything in my area and with their new CEO, that likely won't be changing anytime soon.

From the outside looking in, I can relate to having an interest in the industry as a whole rather than being solely drawn to trains. I like to work hard...it's a good feeling going home after putting in an honest day's work. Doing something that my heart is in would be a plus, too. Right now, I'm trapped behind a desk working on intangible stuff in which I'm struggling to find any interest or meaning.

The current battle is to somehow get through those pesky HR screeners :-)